Saturday, February 04, 2006

Is there a role for microsurgery in the prevention of arm lymphedema


January 26, 2006

Campisi C, Davini D, Bellini C, Taddei G, Villa G, Fulcheri E, Zilli A, Da Rin E, Eretta C, Boccardo F.

Section of Lymphatic Surgery and Microsurgery, Department of Surgery, S. Martino Hospital, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy.

The secondary lymphedema of the upper limb (post-mastectomy lymphedema) has an incidence, in patients who underwent axillary lymphadenectomy for breast cancer, between 5 to 25%, up to 40% after radiotherapic treatment.

We studied 50 patients treated for breast cancer. The patients were divided in two groups of 25 each, comparable for age, sex, pathology and treatment and followed up to 5 years after operation for breast.

One group of 25 patients was controlled only clinically (physical examination, water volumetry) at 1-3-6 months and 1-3-5 years from breast cancer treatment.

The other group of 25 patients was followed also by lymphatic scintigraphy performed pre-operatively and after 1-3-6 months and 1- 3-5 years from operation. In the first group, followed only clinically, lymphedema appeared in 9 patients after a period variable from 1 week to 2 years, with highest incidence between 3 and 6 months. In the second group of 25 patients, the preventive therapeutic protocol allowed to have a clinically evident arm lymphedema only in 2 patients.

The comparison of the two groups of 25 patients proved a statistically significant difference in the appearance of arm secondary lymphedema (p = 0.01, using Fisher's exact test). The diagnostic and therapeutic preventive procedures allow to reduce the incidence rate of lymphedema significantly, in comparison with patients who did not undergo this protocol of prevention.

(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc. Microsurgery 26: 70-72, 2006. PMID: 16444710

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